By RON FLATTER
Compiègne, France — It is still called the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1). With a purse of $5.6 million, it remains Europe’s richest horse race. It is as always turning right for 1½ miles on turf. Even the big silver trophy that looks like the monument at one end of the Champs-Élysées is the same.
But this year it is certainly not the same race. Because the grandstand at Longchamp in Paris is being rebuilt, Sunday’s Arc – and maybe next year’s – will be run an hour north at Chantilly. In short, the biggest change for the 95th running is the hill. This year it is gone.
“Longchamp is a tougher course,” said trainer Freddy Head, who won a record-sharing four Arcs as a jockey. “You’ve got the climb after the start, which you don’t at Chantilly. You need more stamina at Longchamp.”
The teardrop oval at Longchamp takes the Arc field uphill for the first five furlongs, followed by a downhill plunge around the turn to the flat, 500-yard homestretch. At Chantilly the course is flat for the first six furlongs before a road crossing marks the start of a 30-foot drop around the turn for a quarter-mile, an uphill run into the stretch for three furlongs and finally a flat, 150-yard finish.
“At Longchamp you can come from the back; at Chantilly it’s hard to come from way back,” Head said during a minor racing meet today at Compiègne, another track north of Paris. “It’s tougher to do because of the climb coming up in the straight. It’s up that hill.”
That would apparently be bad news for Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) winner Found, 7-to-1 with European bookmakers, and Makahiki, the 5-to-1 hope trying for Japan’s first Arc win. But it could be good news for Postponed, the stalking British 5-year-old that has won six in a row on the way to being a clear, 2-to-1 favorite Sunday. Front-running Highland Reel, winner of last year’s Secretariat Stakes (G1) at Arlington Park and this year’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (G1) at Ascot, should also benefit at 25-to-1.
“It’s true it’s not the same track, but I don’t think it’ll make a lot of difference,” said Jean-Pierre Gauvin, who will ride 6-year-old mare Siljan’s Saga, a 66-to-1 Arc long shot. “I would say that Chantilly is more of a speed track, but they have a lot of similarities.”
With no rain likely, Gauvin is actually more concerned about the ground being too firm for Siljan’s Saga, which finished 12th in the 2014 Arc and eighth in 2015.
“She has a similar chance as the last two years,” he said. “There’s a risk we’ll get similar ground on Sunday at Chantilly, and we know that’s not to her advantage.”
Sixteen horses are still in the mix ahead of Thursday’s setting of the probable Arc field. The draw is Friday morning with the race itself scheduled for 10:05 a.m. EDT.
View from starting gate courtesy of FG Chantilly via Twitter